Akira Toriyama’s manga, Dragonball Z, focuses on the adventures of the protagonist, Goku, and his super-powered friends as they train in martial arts and fight villains in their attempts to save the world from total destruction. As a young adult, he meets his older brother, Raditz and discovers that he belongs to a nearly extinct alien race known as the Saiyans. His original mission had been to destroy the planet Earth, but an injury to the head caused him to lose his bloodthirsty nature and to develop an affinity to the Earth and its inhabitants. He later fights against Vegeta, the Saiyan prince, who becomes his rival and later, his friend. Goku also comes in contact with Frieza, a power-hungry monster responsible for the annihilation of the Saiyans and whose cruelty causes Goku to transform into the legendary Super Saiyan. After an intense battle, Goku defeats the villain and returns to Earth, only to find a group of android beings bent on killing him and destroying the world. These evil life forms are eventually defeated by Goku’s son, Gohan and a time of peace settles over the Earth for seven years. Goku then meets his final challenge: a magical monster named Buu and is able to overcome it when he kills the beast. Ten years later, he flies off with Buu’s reincarnation, Uub, training him to become Earth’s next defender.
Perhaps the most prominent and important theme in Dragonball Z is the idea of struggling to overcome any challenge, no matter how difficult. The characters, regardless of the strength of their opponents, fight to the death to win. Their almost unbelievable tenacity stems from their good-natured motives, mostly ones that involve the safety of loved ones. Goku, when he fights his brother, discovers that he is greatly outmatched and has no hopes of winning through direct attacks. Fearing for the lives of his son and his friends, he sacrifices his own life to destroy his evil brother. This cycle of fighting, winning, losing, and improving all through near-death or death experiences pervades every hero in the series, emphasizing this theme and its importance.
Another interesting point is the way that women are portrayed in the manga. Women, in general, are portrayed as rather weak and are rarely seen in battle. However, in the presence of their friends or husbands, they become aggressive and outspoken. This stereotype mirrors real life in the mid 1900s, but is no longer the case. The fact that the author may have succumbed to this stereotype during his childhood could explain why the majority of readers of Dragonball is male.
Toriyama’s extensive use of splash panels adds an interesting effect to the manga because the reader is able to clearly visualize the action involved in the intense fighting between super-powered beings. Furthermore, they provide for the reader a break from the constant exchange of attacks throughout several pages. This allows the reader to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the story and allows him to focus on the details of the characters. In the panel below, the fight between Goku and Frieza intensifies as they continue to do damage to each other and the surrounding terrain. We can see how the battle is affecting both characters, but we are also able to recall what happened before that led to this.
Finally, the manga’s lack of color sometimes hinders its ability to convey certain ideas. As seen in the anime, most of the villains have varied colors that emphasize their dispositions and characteristics. For example, Cell is shown to be green to emphasize his reptilian features and greedy nature. Furthermore, Buu’s pink color portrayed its ability to stretch and contort to various shapes like bubble gum. Toriyama’s decision, therefore, to not employ color in the manga may not have necessarily been wise as it lost these crucial details.
Overall, we would recommend this manga to readers seeking an action-oriented piece that focuses on magic and super-powered beings. Even though there are some minor issues with visual elements, the central theme is still effectively and successfully conveyed to the reader.
-Ajay Chatrath, Vignessh Kumar, and Jacob Ma
Toriyama, Akira. Dragonball. mangareader.net. Web. 17 Dec. 2011. http://www.mangareader.net/